By Judy Herrell, John DiBartolo, James Winston, Jon Reed, and Amy Mager
Save Northampton Main Street has surveyed the Northampton Main Street business district to assess the number of businesses in favor or opposed to the city of Northampton’s redesign. In the media, city officials have touted that 50 businesses on Main Street are in favor of their redesign.
However, our findings clearly show that most downtown businesses are opposed to the current redesign plans by the city of Northampton. Our results show, of 100 businesses surveyed, 69 are opposed, while only two are in favor. Several businesses were not aware of the proposed changes and needed more information, and four businesses were neutral about the changes.
What was the most interesting was how businesses listed on the city’s list that were surveyed by our team were not aware they were on any list, let alone one that was published.
Additionally, Save Northampton read and analyzed the Toole Design report [detailing the Main Street redesign]. John DiBartolo of our group wrote a letter outlining these issues to the City Council in Northampton and the Mayor’s office. Some of these issues are:
• Traffic increase and travel time. This new design will create traffic jams and extended travel time for people traveling down Route 9 through Northampton for any reason. According to the city, the intention of the project is to slow down traffic for safety, and it was never an objective to keep travel time or improve traffic flow.
• Bike safety. This new design will create unsafe bike crossings at intersections without traffic lights and visibility issues with drivers, bikers, and pedestrians. According to the city, the current design’s internal lanes are 40% safer than other designs, including our suggestion of adjacent-to-traffic bike lanes with enhancements.
• Requested public meetings. The city refuses to meet with business owners and residents except individually. They claim to have had many in-person meetings during COVID, which were Zoom meetings. There was no city public hearing on this subject (only one Zoom hearing by the DOT). The city feels that their process was robust and inclusive.
• Comparing Northampton’s redesign to Concord, N.H. While the size of Concord and Northampton are relatively the same, Concord is set up as a grid, which Northampton is not. Northampton has no natural bypass for drivers who wish to bypass the Northampton shopping district. Furthermore, Concord has shared bike and vehicle lanes with no separate bike path and was always a one-lane-in-each-direction road. In Concord, they removed parking to create larger sidewalks and green areas. Concord’s main shopping district is not a state highway. Concord’s city officials conducted 50 meetings in person with concerned businesses and residents before deciding on their plan. Northampton had only 20 Zoom meetings, the last of which was both in-person and over Zoom.
• A new design alternative. Save Northampton has had numerous discussions with residents, businesses, and property owners and is currently working with an architect to provide the city with an alternative plan which can also receive the same funding and might be a bit less expensive.
We continue to hope the city of Northampton will call for a public meeting to access the city’s views on the current design, as our data indicates more residents are opposed than in favor of this design. Our Save Northampton Main Street petition currently has more than 2,000 signatures, mostly from Northampton, Florence, and Leeds residents and business owners.
Judy Herrell, John DiBartolo, James Winston, Jon Reed, and Amy Mager are members of Save Northampton Main Street.